Financial Watchdog's 'Huge' Public Spend on Employment Disputes; Independent Report Finds 'Tension' among Staff at Wales Audit Office

Article excerpt

Byline: Matt Withers

THE Wales Audit Office has racked up hundreds of thousands of pounds in the past three years settling employment disputes, it emerged last night.

The finance watchdog, the subject of a critical report earlier this month which found issues of "tensions" between senior managers, has spent pounds 173,904 in legal costs covering employment disputes and changes in policy as a result of disputes.

The details, released to Plaid Cymru AM Leanne Wood under Freedom of Information laws, also reveal that pounds 125,706 was paid out in settlement agreements with a further pounds 45,542 in pension payments as a result of employment disputes.

In addition, pounds 420,000 had been set aside for holiday entitlement - the equivalent of more than 500 weeks of outstanding holidays.

In May this year, staff working for the Wales Audit Office delivered a vote of no confidence in their senior management.

In a survey commissioned by trade unions, more than 65% of employees either disagreed or disagreed strongly when it was put to them that Auditor General Jeremy Colman and Chief Operating Officer Anthony Snow provide strong leadership.

Earlier this month, an independent peer review of the work of the Wales Audit Office raised concerns over its structure and leadership.

An independent report found "tensions" between senior managers and issues of trust for staff. However, the review said the body delivered high quality work, and was seen by many as an excellent employer. And last week, the Western Mail revealed how a whistle-blower forced to leave the Wales Audit Office had had his compensation doubled to more than pounds 200,000.

Andrew Hurley, who was a senior auditor, raised concerns about patient confidentiality in NHS trusts.

Mr Hurley, an IT audit specialist, was asked to follow up serious concerns raised by health officials about the way information was handled by an NHS body, Health Solutions Wales. …